OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Harvest Straws

Harvest Straws are a sustainable alternative to plastic drinking straws that are ready to quickly biodegrade and rejoin the growing cycle.

Photo of Sherry
4 6

Written by

In centuries past, all drinking straws were made from the stalks of grain – called straw – hence the name! In the early 1900s, machines were devised that could make spiral-wound paper straws, but they quickly got soggy, so they were coated with paraffin, a petroleum-based wax. In the 1960s, straws began to be made entirely from plastic, and the switch to petroleum was complete. 

Harvest Straws are a call to the sustainable past. Cured and sanitized and ready to use - Harvest Straws are grown, harvested and cut by hand in Southern California from heritage, non-GMO grain grown without irrigation, using no chemicals in any part of the process. The most sustainable, low-carbon, environmentally friendly drinking straws available.

Idea Title

Back to the Basics - Eliminate plastic waste through sustainable drinking straws

Company / Organization Name

Harvest Straws


Where are you / your team located?

Tehachapi, CA Los Angeles, CA

How does this Idea redesign unrecyclable small format plastic items that often end up as waste?

Plastic straws have become one of the single most problematic and ubiquitous unrecyclable plastic products that end up in our oceans and other sensitive ecological areas. Little or no effort is made to recycle these items; instead they are thrown into landfills or littered in the streets. By using organic, sustainable rye straws that are grown -- not manufactured -- plastic is effectively replaced with a bio-degradable and natural product.

Which use cases does your Idea apply to?

Case 3: Straws and lids

In what geographical context or area does your Idea plan to operate / solve?

Right now we are producing straws locally in Southern California but we intend to expand throughout the United States and even worldwide. Wherever plastic straws are used, we hope to supplant them.

How do you envision scaling up your Idea?

We are a society of single use products. Since plastic straws are not recyclable, we figure it is easier to make something people will not feel guilty throwing away, such as an organic and compostable straw. We hope to roll out in restaurants, festivals, and stores. Although our product is plentiful, obstacles such as labor and tedious harvesting affect the speed at which we can meet demand. Mechanized straw cutting and sorting machinery would greatly aid us in these efforts.

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Research & Early Testing: You are exploring an idea, gathering inspiration and information needed to test it with real users.
  • Prototyping: You have conducted some small tests or experiments with prospective users and will continue developing idea through these tests.
  • Piloting: You have started to implement your solution as a whole with a first set of real users. You may have started to develop a business model for your idea, including identifying key customer segments, relevant partnerships, go-to-market strategy, and draft financials.

Please describe how becoming a Top Idea and working with the Think Beyond Plastics Accelerator Program will help to accelerate your solution.

Our current goals are to be able to grow enough straws with enough efficiency to lower costs and consumer prices so that these compostable straws can more effectively compete with plastic straws. Our rollout is localized for now, but soon we hope to expand to a mass market base and eventually create a market where there is little incentive to use a plastic straw.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

This is a partnership start-up. After years of living in the southern California region and seeing our beaches and streets littered with plastics - with straws being a major culprit - we thought there has got to be a better way. Sitting on our farm is hundreds years old generation wild rye that when cut and cleaned acts as the perfect drinking straw. They are resilient and can be reused or tossed in compost bins to bio-degrade. A total cyclical lifespan product.

Tell us about your work experience

We are multi-generational farmers with vast experience growing heritage grain and organic produce for chefs and consumers throughout Southern California. Harvest Straws are a natural fit for us.

Please describe your legal and organizational structure

Our company is registered as Harvest Straws, LLC.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Lauren Ito

Hi Sherry!

As Refinement Phase quickly comes to a close in LESS THAN 7 HOURS, I want to remind you that the following must be submitted by tonight, August 31st at 11:30 p.m. Pacific Time.

1. Submit the Refinement Questions Form online that was sent again via email yesterday evening--we have not yet received this from you. These questions are mandatory for Top Ideas consideration, so this should be your first priority in the final stretch.

2. A secondary priority, which is optional, is to update your Refinement Phase post.

If you have any questions, please email

Looking forward to reviewing and celebrating the amazing work you've achieved this Refinement Phase!

View all comments